In case you haven’t heard, an asteroid, known as Florence has come pretty close to Earth today. This is the first asteroid that has come this close since 1890. Asteroids are not that uncommon, so what makes this one so special? Florence is absolutely huge, and would pose an even bigger threat to life as we know it, if it were to actually make contact with Earth. Thankfully, NASA says this isn’t going to happen. At least not this time. But it does make you wonder, if and when it will happen?
The asteroid is named after Florence Nightingale and measures 2.7 miles across. If you compare this to a majority of the space rocks that actually come into our Solar System, it’s huge. To put this into perspective, the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs approximately 65 million years ago, was estimated to be around 6 miles wide. If an asteroid the size of Florence were actually to make contact with the Earth, it wouldn’t be the end of life, but it would be incredibly devastating. So devastating, that it’s even hard to imagine. Think “Last Man on Earth”. I’m kidding. But could you even imagine, for a moment what that would even look like?
The good news is that astronomers had a pretty good idea on what Florence’s path is going to take. Florence passed by quite a good distance away, around 4.4 million miles. Which might sound like a lot, but that’s pretty close when you consider how big the Solar System actually is. In fact, it was close enough that amateur astronomers could see it. If you have a decent size, consumer grade telescope you could see Florence as it passes by.
In addition to being able to view it because of it’s size, it is also relatively easy to see because of the reflectivity rate. What’s that you ask? It’s the amount of sunlight that you can see on the asteroid. 20%, in fact, of the sunlight that will hit the asteroid, will be reflected. Which makes it even easier to see. Think about the moon, which only has a reflectivity rate of 12%. Which, in theory, is going to make this easier for you to see.
What do you think about all of this? It sounds kind of scary, especially since scientists are saying how “close” it is to Earth. Now I don’t want to paint an Armageddon picture for you, but these kinds of events are possible. Now, scientists and NASA are all saying that another asteroid won’t come this close to earth until at least 2500. That’s the year, friends. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not a scary prospect.
NASA is actually tracking down a potentially dangerous asteroid called Bennu. What is really interesting about this particular mission is that they can take a sample of the asteroid, once they track it down. With that, they’re going to be able to learn a lot more than they had previously known.
All of this makes you wonder, if and when an asteroid could make contact with the earth. And they do enter the Earth’s atmosphere on occasion, but usually end up exploding in a fireball type scenario. These, are also scary, but would not be nearly as devastating as Florence or an asteroid of that size. I wonder if there are people out there who would deny the existence of asteroids. Like climate change deniers. We know these things exist, and we know they are potentially dangerous. In this case, however, there is very little “we” can do do prevent them. Do we chalk these up to being out of our control, and therefore we don’t worry about them? Or are we too naive to think that an asteroid could make contact with Earth in our lifetime?